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Pascalle Monnier
Bayart
translated from the French by Cole Swensen
ISBN 0-9675144-6-0
2002
$15.00

 

Pascalle Monnier's epic poem Bayart is a meditation on the historical Bayard, the renowned chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. But it is many other things as well: recollections of childhood, erotic reverie, a treatise on color and on the art of depiction, and a disquisition on the senses and the objects that attract them. Just as all history is tragic because it already happened, so it is with "the melancholy character of painting" and "its frequent evocation of antiquated models," and even with "the smell of ashes, the smell of trees, the color of the sky, the color of the eyes--though they changed according to the day and above all according to the light." A Renaissance tapestry slashed with Fauve, Pointillist and Abstract Expressionist digressions, Bayart claims all of life and the history of longing as its subject, and claims the right to rearrange and reorganize their teeming particulars according to mysterious laws which are in force behind the scenes. Ravishing to the eye and ear, deeply unsettling yet offering consolations of its own, Bayart marks a step forward in late twentieth-century poetry. Cole Swensen's translation is simply amazing.

--John Ashbery